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Your growth just might come from an unlikely source

June 22nd, 2008

This note is about a Principa Alliance member who turned a practice disaster into an opportunity and picked up more than $100,000 in fees in a year from a most unlikely group of clients.

People come away from our Bootcamp excited by the opportunity they know they have to help their clients dramatically improve their business by applying the leverage points they’ve learnt.  They realize that creating a better and more valuable business does not involve rocket science.  All their clients really need is someone to give them direction, a workable action plan and a process for monitoring outcomes as a basis for holding them accountable for their actions (or lack thereof).

Inevitably, they have several of their “top” clients in mind when they leave the Bootcamp and they can’t wait to talk to them about how they can help.  Their top clients are people with whom they have a great relationship and for whom they are doing valuable work.  They pay their bills, are good referral sources and are a pleasure to deal with.  What better definition could you have for a “top” client.  Life would be great if all your clients were like that!

It sometimes happens, however, when you introduce “new” business development services to your top clients they’re reluctant to move forward with you in this style of business advisory or management coaching capacity.  Naturally this can be disheartening and there’s a risk you’ll conclude that your clients are not suited to this type of service.

I believe there’s a reason for this.  Those clients who show little or no interest in working with you in this capacity are telling you they’re very happy with what you are now doing for them.  That’s why they’re loyal advocates, are easy to work with and are very happy to pay for your services.  Many of them are not looking for more from you, at least not at this time.

On the other hand there are many other clients who you may not feel too close to and who you have probably dismissed as candidates for your business development services.  This group contains some phenomenal opportunities and here’s why.  We’ve done client advisory boards over the years in many countries and we are amazed at how many clients of accounting firms are not aware of the services the firm could provide them.  It does not matter how much promotion you think you do, the sad fact is many people don’t see it, don’t think it applies to them or summarily dismiss it it for some other reason.  If these people seem distant to you it’s usually because they feel that you could be doing more for them but they don’t know what that is and therefore can’t ask for it.  This is why so many studies of what clients think of their accountants come up with the finding that they want their accountant to proactively help them build a better business and would be very happy to pay for it—and who wouldn’t when the return on investment is so high.

People want you to notice them, they want you to talk to them and to show an interest in them personally.  They don’t want to be “sold” something they don’t need but they do want you to take enough interest in them to be willing to spend some time showing them what their full potential is and how they can accomplish that.  As long as they meet our 11 point client selection criteria they are great candidates for business development services.  Of the 11 criteria, three stand out, they are: does their business have development potential, do they have a pleasant personality and are they willing to listen?

And that brings me to Bob Bowley who I posted a blog about in October 2007.

Bob has a firm based in Nelson New Zealand called Bowley Consulting.  A small community of about 50,000 people with a typical mix of small businesses.  It is not a booming community but it’s not dying either.   A couple of years ago two of Bob’s senior people left his firm and within a few months he lost 30% of his best clients who together contributed 80% of his profit!

When you’re left with 70% of the work but only 20% of the profit the situation is scary to say the least.  Bob could easily have thrown in the towel but he decided to see what he could do with what he had to work with.  Noting that his previous employees had had considerable success with our Business Dashboard and the service protocol built around that product he approached several of the clients he had been left with and to his absolute amazement 11 of them took up his offer and have yielded more that $100,000 in fees in the past year.  Previously he had not considered them as prospects for this type of service and had not even approached them.

The results he has been able to achieve for these clients is as impressive as the results he has been able to achieve for his firm.  Bob kindly discussed his experience with the Dashboard at our Practice 2020 Conference in Brisbane this year.  We captured his session on camera so you can see for yourself how he has used the Dashboard and how you could do the same.

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